ABANDONMENT OF PROPERTY
Part 5 of the Residential Tenancy Regulation outlines the rules for abandonment of personal property. A tenant is considered to have abandoned personal property in the following situations:
- The tenancy has ended and the tenant has moved out.
- They have not paid rent or lived in the rental unit for at least one continuous month.*
- They have removed almost all of their personal property.*
*In situations 2 and 3, the tenant is only considered to have abandoned the property if:
- they inform the landlord verbally or in writing that they do not intend to return to the property; or
- it is unreasonable for the landlord to assume they will return.
There are strict rules for when a landlord can enter your rental unit. See TRAC’s webpage, Quiet Enjoyment, for more information. However, if you have abandoned your unit, your landlord is allowed to enter and remove your belongings, as long as they follow the requirements listed below.
According to Part 5 of the Residential Tenancy Regulation, landlords have the following responsibilities when removing a tenant’s abandoned personal property:
- exercise duty of care by carefully removing the personal property and ensuring that nothing is damaged, lost, or stolen;
- store the personal property in a safe place for at least 60 days;
- keep a written list of the personal property;
- keep details of the removal and storage of the personal property for at least two years; and
- upon request, advise the tenant or tenant’s representative that the personal property has been stored, or that it has been disposed of.
Exceptions: There are three exceptions to the requirements listed above:
- The personal property has a value of less than $500.
- The cost of removing, storing and selling the property would be more than the value of the personal property.
- The landlord reasonably believes that storing the personal property would be unsafe or unsanitary.
If you want to claim the abandoned personal property that your landlord removed, you may have to reimburse your landlord for the cost of removing and storing it, as well as the cost of the notice of the disposition (see below). Your landlord can also require that you pay any money that you legally owe them under the Residential Tenancy Act or your tenancy agreement, such as unpaid rent or payments ordered by the Residential Tenancy Branch. If you do not pay your landlord the money you owe, they do not have to return your personal property.
After 60 days of storing personal property, a landlord can provide a 30 days notice of disposition to the tenant, or anyone who claims a security interest in the property, such as a creditor to whom the tenant still owes money. For example, a bank may have a lien on the tenant’s car if they have not fully paid off their car loan. In addition to notifying the tenant and interested parties, the landlord is required to publish the notice of disposition in a newspaper published in the same area as the rental property.
The notice of disposition must contain:
- the tenant’s name;
- a description of the property;
- the address of the rental property;
- the landlord’s name and address; and
- a statement that the property will be disposed of unless, within 30 days, the person notified takes possession, establishes a right to possession, or makes an application to the court to establish a right to possession.
If the landlord complies with these requirements, and no one claims the property, establishes a right to possession, or applies to the court to establish a right of possession, the landlord may dispose of or sell the property. The landlord is allowed to keep the proceeds of the sale up to an amount that covers the costs of removing, storing, and selling the property, notifying all interested parties, and any money owed to the landlord by the tenant. Any proceeds beyond this amount must be paid to the administrator of the Unclaimed Property Act.
This is one of the most complicated areas of residential tenancy law. See Part 5 of the Residential Tenancy Regulation for more information.